WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Creatures of habit

My routine was upset yesterday because of scorching heat. It’s getting upset again today for the same reason. I’m a writer. This is unacceptable.

Well, let me back up a bit. It’s a busy workweek, so writing isn’t exactly what’s getting thrown off track, but as a writer, I’ve been a creature of habit for about as long as I’ve been tying my own shoes. I’ve talked about it before, but nothing helps me produce fiction like doing the same thing at the same time every day — that is, when I have the luxury, sitting down and writing for a few hours. Somehow, the brain becomes accustomed to the routine, looks forward to it, prepares (even while I’m sleeping!), and leaps into action the moment I open the file I’m working on. Then, if I’m really lucky, time passes as if I’m in a suspended-animation pod, I look up, and it’s lunch time. Oh, and I have a couple thousand words on my screen good enough to keep.

But being a creature of habit has filtered into other areas of my life, so that having to walk the dog at 10 am instead of 2 pm is a major aggravation. (Yes, I work at home, so at least I have the flexibility, I know, and I should stop complaining.) Then the rest of the day is screwed up because I have to work right after lunch and keep working till daily guitar-practice time. Then it’s read-and-listen-to-music time, then dinner. Then watch-baseball time, then read-in-the-bath-time, then Colbert-time, then beddy-bye time.

Then I get up and do it all again.

I’ve read somewhere that Buddhist monks achieve inner serenity by doing the same thing at the same time every day, in an unwavering repetition of the perfect order.

I don’t know about that, but I am looking ahead in the weather forecast to see when I can get back to my routine.

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20 comments on “Creatures of habit

  1. Phillip McCollum
    May 14, 2014

    I swear a piece of my soul dies every time I’m forced out of routine, because I KNOW it will just get worse and I’ll be facing a long climb back up Productivity Mountain.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      Exactly, and you’ve had a lot of that in the past year…

  2. sknicholls
    May 14, 2014

    Structure is what helps me survive, without it I am lost.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      Yep. It’s kind of like a coral reef, in a way. Structure for creative life.

  3. francisguenette
    May 14, 2014

    I’ve been totally out of any structure at all mode for the past three weeks and I am feeling the angst associated with that. Time to get home and get to work.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      Three weeks! That’s a long time to be away from the orderly life of a writer!

      Enjoy it when you get back into the swing of things.

  4. 1WriteWay
    May 14, 2014

    I think the lack of control that my husband and I have over our working lives is one reason why we stick (with desperation sometimes) to our personal routines, such as having the same schedule of evening meals every week (plus it makes it easy to whiz through the co-op when we buy the same stuff every week). I wish I had a routine for my writing. Hell, I wish I was writing!

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      The same meals every week? Why not just buy a case of Ensure and end it?!!

      Seriously, though, it can be mighty tough to find a slot for writing in a busy life. Then again, “writing” could be dictating ideas into your phone recorder, jotting notes at lunch time, throwing together a couple of paragraphs while the spaghetti water boils, etc. Necessity causes interesting adaptations…

      • 1WriteWay
        May 14, 2014

        Ha ha. It’s not like we have PBJ sandwiches every night, but if I have to go a week without my husband’s baked salmon, I get testy 😉 I understand that I can grab a few minutes here and a few there, but really what I need is time to edit. Fact is, I have plenty of material; I just need chunks of time In which to edit (and rewrite and repeat).

      • Kevin Brennan
        May 14, 2014

        Yum. I think I could go for baked salmon once a week!

        You’re right about the editing, though. Sometimes the different frame of mind required doesn’t fit into the usual routine for me. Two hours can seem like five!

      • 1WriteWay
        May 15, 2014

        That’s what I’m trying to come to grips with. It’s one thing to write for awhile before work, like I did with NaNoWriMo. But editing is a whole other game. And while writing by itself can be very satisfying, at some point I need to find out if anything I’ve written is worthy of being published. I can’t make that determination without editing.

  5. John W. Howell
    May 14, 2014

    I can relate. I hate it when anything gets in the way of writing time. For me that is 1:00 PM every day.

  6. J. S. Collyer
    May 14, 2014

    Totally with you, Kevin. If I have to do something unplanned or out of my routine it throws me way out of kilter. I don’t often sit down spontaneously to write, I plan the time. And the rest of my work too. If something causes it to be disrupted I can usually still do it…but it’s just not the same!

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      So true. I think it has to do with the power of consistency. When you have to work outside the usual structure, the consistency gets broken.

  7. Dave
    May 14, 2014

    I’m with you, too, Kevin. Hate changes in routine. I like predictable routines, both in work and writing. Work’s doing ok, but have had family visiting for a week which, while great, has thrown all the routines into the toilet 🙂 Plus it’s been almost a hundred degrees here the last couple of days. What’s up with that?

    Anyway, I have grand plans of normalcy returning next week. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. BTW – I work at home as well. I love the flexibility, and I actually enjoy the time alone. For example, I can comment on blogs while “at work” 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 14, 2014

      Ah, another member of the Work-At-Home Club! I think I’d be swiftly canned if I worked in a real office…

      Yep. It’s 94 here right now. Glad I took the dog out at 10!

  8. ericjbaker
    May 15, 2014

    I want a wafer cookie shaped and colored like the picture at the top. There would be four layers, separated by three layers of vanilla cream.

    And that is all I have to say.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 15, 2014

      That sounds delicious. Let’s look into some venture capital to get this cookie off the ground!

      • ericjbaker
        May 15, 2014

        I have a $1.88. We’re almost there!

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This entry was posted on May 14, 2014 by in Writing and tagged .
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